Attorney says client unfit for trial after recorded during racist rant, has history of mental illness

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Jeffrey Rouse (Credit: CCSO booking photo)

Lawyers are now fighting over whether a man accused of screaming racial slurs at a Black woman in Southwest Florida is competent for trial.

Jeffrey Rouse was arrested days after a video showed him threatening a woman at a stoplight in Collier County.

We spoke to Rouse’s lawyer, former judge Mike Carr, Thursday about why he feels his client is not fit for trial.

“He needs help, Carr said.

Last Saturday, a woman says she was sitting at a stoplight on Airport-Pulling Road in Naples when Rouse began yelling racial slurs at her.

“The behavior itself is not within the normal range,” Carr said.

A Collier County judge for the past 12 years, Carr said he has faith in the court system.

“I made a good faith to allegation here that my client, Mr. Rouse, is not competent,” Carr said. “I don’t do that lightly.”

“You have to have at least a moderate ability to communicate if you’re going to be in the court system,” Carr said. “And he doesn’t have it.”

“The video speaks for itself,” Carr said.

We asked Carr if he believes his client is racist.

“The only thing I’m sure of is that he’s mentally ill,” Carr said.

Carr said Rouse had been institutionalized repeatedly for mental illness in the past.

“He’s got real mental problems he needs help he’s more to be pitied than feared,” Carr said. “It doesn’t change what they said or did, but it helps to understand he’s not all there.”

The next step: The state will agree upon a time for a hearing, where the state will have the opportunity to reveal any objections.

The last time Carr spoke to Rouse was Wednesday. He says he was barely understandable and was just screaming the whole time.

“I would be shocked if they object to having him examined to determine competency,” Carr said. “That would be shocking.”

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